Do I Need a Lawyer? Part One of the “I was charged with Domestic Violence” Edition:
Domestic violence is a serious charge with serious consequences, even when the charges are in Magistrates Court. Do you need a lawyer? Five questions to ask yourself before proceeding on your own are:
- Am I facing jail time? This answer is YES in every domestic violence case. Even the lowest level of domestic violence in South Carolina carries the potential of active time in jail. What the lower two levels of domestic violence lack in jail time, they make up for in fines – up to $5000 before court costs are imposed. On the wrong day before the wrong judge, you could end up with jail time AND a fine. A lawyer can help you navigate all of this. Penalties for domestic violence in South Carolina are as follows:
Domestic Violence, Third Degree: up to 90 days and/or a fine between $1000 and $2500
Domestic Violence, Second Degree: up to 3 years and/or a fine between $2500 and $5000
Domestic Violence, First Degree: up to 10 years
Domestic Violence High and Aggravated: up to 20 years
- Can I go to a diversion program? Some individuals may qualify to go to a diversion program that allows you to complete classes and then have the charge expunged off your record. These programs are not always publicized by the prosecutor’s office. You need to know who to talk to and how to ask. You also have to understand the expungement process that must be completed to remove the arrest from your record once you finish the program. The right lawyer can handle all of this for you.
- The victim will just ask for it to be dismissed and the case will go away, right? This is NOT true in most jurisdictions any more. Many prosecutor’s offices won’t even let the alleged victim sign a dismissal form in their office. Your defense has to be a lot more than “the victim doesn’t want to prosecute.” A lawyer can help you determine what, if any, defenses you may have under the law and how to proceed whether the victim is cooperative or not cooperative with the prosecutor.
- What happens to my guns after a domestic violence conviction? South Carolina changed the law to allow people convicted of domestic violence to regain their right to possess a firearm after a certain period of time. The federal government did NOT change their law, however, and anyone convicted of domestic violence in South Carolina is still federally prohibited from possessing all firearms unless they are pardoned. A domestic violence conviction can have serious repercussions on your right to bear arms and a lawyer can help you make smart decisions about how to handle this in your case.
- If the victim doesn’t come to court, won’t the prosecutor just dismiss my case? While this can sometimes be true, more often than not the prosecutor will try to go forward without the victim. This is called “evidence-based prosecution” and the prosecutor can try to use 911 calls, body cameras, text messages, and other types of evidence to try you without the victim taking the stand. Some of this evidence may be excluded under the Rules of Evidence. A lawyer will know the rules and be able to determine what, if any, of the evidence would be admissible against you if the victim doesn’t appear.
Still have questions? Concerned about proceeding on your own? Call Criminal Defense Attorney, Jennifer Wells or Steve Denton at KD Trial Lawyers. Our experienced criminal defense team at KD Trial Lawyers can talk to you about the specific issues in your case. You don’t have to go it alone. We can help.
Blog Post Written By Attorney Jennifer E. Wells. To learn more about Jennifer, click HERE.